Obesity adds risk of cardiovascular disease in siblings in families with a history of heart problems

A Johns Hopkins study finds that people who have a family history of heart disease have more reason than most to keep their weight down. In these families, the Hopkins team found that siblings who were obese or overweight had a 60 percent increased risk of suffering a serious heart ailment, such as a heart attack, before the age of 60.

The study, to be published in the journal Circulation online April 19, is believed to be the first measure of additional risk from increased body mass index (BMI) in such populations (BMI equals weight in kilograms per height in square meters). People are considered to be obese when their BMI is greater than or equal to 30 kilograms per meter squared; overweight is defined as a BMI of 25 to 29.9 kilograms per meter squared. For example, someone who is 5 feet 10 inches tall who weights 250 pounds has a BMI of 41 kilograms per meter squared.

"There is a growing epidemic of obesity among Americans, with two-thirds of Americans overweight," says senior investigator Diane Becker, M.P.H., Sc.D., a professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Because overweight and obesity are risk factors for heart disease, physicians and the public should know what additional risk applies for siblings in families with known heart problems so that appropriate monitoring and therapy can be performed."

The study's results highlight the importance of BMI in assessing overall risk to heart health and supplement traditional risk assessments, such as the Framingham Risk Score (FRS), the researchers say. Traditional FRS scoring measures the likelihood of developing major heart problems, such as a heart attack, within 10 years. However, the FRS score, originally developed in the 1990s, omits BMI, taking into account traditional leading risk factors for heart disease, such as age, gender, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking and diabetes.

In the Hopkins study, rese

Contact: David March
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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